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Let The Kids Play program lights up summer soccer nights in Nepean


By Ottawa Sportspage, For Nepean Hotspurs Soccer Club

The Nepean Hotspurs Soccer Club’s Let the Kids Play program emphasizes fun first and foremost, and that philosophy is on full display any weeknight with abundant smiles on children’s faces as they race for the ball at Charmaine Hooper Fields on Colonnade Road.

There are over 400 enthusiastic participants in this recreational program, which runs from May 28-Aug. 11, featuring hour-long sessions for players age 4-12 starting at either 6:15 or 7:15 p.m.

“What I enjoy is walking by and watching them smiling and having fun,” says Rocco Barresi, the Hotspurs’ Director of Youth. “They get exercise out of it, they get enjoyment and they get a love for the game.”

It’s proven to be a popular formula for parents as well, with the opportunity to mingle with other parents in the community while cheering on their kids and enjoying summertime evenings from their sideline lawn chairs.

Many participants are from nearby neighbourhoods in Nepean, while others come from considerably farther, such as Barrhaven, Stittsville, Orleans and Gatineau.

“The program is great because it allows the kids to get exercise, and it is also at a convenient location for us,” highlights Lisa Allen, the mother of a twice-a-week recreational player.

A highlight for all involved is the year-end festival, which will be held on Saturday, Aug. 11 this year. The kids play soccer games against other teams in their age divisions, and enjoy a BBQ, face painting and snow cones.

Top-notch player development

Nepean Hotspurs Club Head Coach and National ‘A’ Licence-holder Boris Bajagic developed the curriculum for the Let The Kids Play program. LKP follows the top player developmental philosophies, such as younger ages playing in smaller groups to allow more ball time, interaction between teammates and coaching support.

It’s a format that provides a first introduction to the game and gives players aspiring to move into the competitive ranks in the future a solid foundation. The club also offers the TOP DAWG program for U9-U12 players who want more practice time, and has a long history of developing many of the region’s elite players over the course of almost 50 years on the Ottawa soccer scene.

The coaches in the Let the Kids Play program are a mix of parent volunteers and paid Nepean Hotspurs staff. Bajagic holds a clinic for the coaches every year before the season starts.

“We try to develop our coaches for the recreational program,” underlines Barresi, identifying a component of the Hotspurs’ approach that sets it apart from many other clubs. “We don’t just give it to a parent volunteer with no training and say now you’re responsible for that group. We provide that training for them. And I think that’s what brings out the interest from a lot of parents.”

Sessions include segments on physical literacy, technique and scrimmages, though no standings or scores are kept, again ensuring that fun remains #1.

“It’s very important that the kids enjoy what they’re doing and that they’re in a pressure-free environment,” adds Barresi. “To me, it’s trying to find a balance between development and fun. If you find that balance, you’re very successful.”

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